Delhi: Schools, colleges hit the brakes on reopening as covid cases surge

Amid the rising number of coronavirus cases in Delhi, education institutions that have been going through a slow-phased reopening, have now put the brakes on the further opening up of offline activities and physical movement.

Schools in the city were among the last to permit limited re-opening. In January, schools were permitted to re-open for class X and XII students for their final leg of board examination preparation and for them to do their practical and project work. In February, class IX and XI students were also permitted to return to prepare for and write their final examinations. However, even this limited re-opening has been rolled back for the new academic year which begun this month in most private schools.

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Schools have been instructed to not call back any students of any grade for offline classes in the new academic year, meaning that even senior students who are beginning their new grades will do so online. Younger students have not returned to school at all since the start of the first lockdown.

With most pre-board examinations done, the only children going to school in Delhi now are board year students who want to consult their teachers for help and for their practical exams, and government school students who are writing their pre-board examinations.

Education department officials have hinted that they are not looking at earlier than July for any kind of re-opening for younger children.

In the meantime, higher education institutions have also been going through a slow process of re-opening even as students in institutes such as JNU, DU, IIMC and AUD have been protesting and pressurizing for re-opening of campus.

Delhi University had first permitted phased re-entry for its Ph.D. students and went on earlier this year to open for final year students who might need to use the labs or practical facilities, even as all theory classes continue to be conducted only online. Following a spurt of COVID cases in St. Stephen’s College which had opened up its hostel facilities, the DU administration issued a fresh notice last week advising students to avoid physical presence at libraries and laboratories. It has also closed off entry off outsiders to premises such as Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Sciences and has cancelled all bookings for seminar halls and conference centres.

In JNU too, where gradual re-opening has been taking place over multiple phases, the administration notified that it might review its re-opening guidelines after more than 20 active cases were detected among the student body last week. For now, the administration has made wearing masks in all parts of campus mandatory.

For now most higher education institutes in the city are not looking at any further re-opening and are maintaining their status quo of continuing all activities online and like Delhi Technological University, permitting final year students who want to be physically present on campus to do their practical and laboratory work on a voluntary basis.

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